18 February 2024

Councils can't afford to be kind

When he gets a fresh PCN Mr Mustard often has to warn people that, more likely than not, the council will not look kindly on the reason why they received the PCN. The council want your money, most of the time, and whilst they have a wide discretion, councils can cancel any PCN for any reason, the adjudicator cannot & must strictly apply the law. Adjudicators can only recommend that a council think again although Mr Mustard has seen them bend the law in order to excuse an error.

Here is a classic example of a situation in which Mr Mustard thinks the public would expect leniency to come into play but he wasn't at all surprised when it didn't. This is a situation which, other things being equal, will only happen the once.

The informal challenge submitted to Lewisham Council:

and the relevant part of their response:

This is a Catch 22 response. There is no evidence that the writer thought about exercising their discretion. Their explanation is that because the contravention happened, which was already conceded by the motorist, the council won't cancel because the contravention happened.

What should happen is that Lewisham Council should consider the mitigation put forward, decide if it has the ring of truth (why would you stay in a hotel in SE13 when you live in SE6?) which it does and then consider whether or not to cancel the PCN. There is no revenue loss to the council which didn't instigate an automatic refund of a payment for which no value was given (once you have a PCN you cannot get another the same day, unless the rules of the bay change, if you don't move).

The rejection letter should explain why discretion is not being exercised, like one of these responses:

a    your proof is not credible

b    we don't think the mitigation is sufficient as you could have paid the night before (if you can, although the driver might have been intending to get up early, buy flowers and attempt a reconciliation)

c    we want your money so won't cancel

d    we are venal and rapacious. (* copyright another PCN expert, Incandescent).

The law assumes that a public body endowed with absolute power will exercise that power in a manner which is fair in all the circumstances. Although this appeal for clemency can be argued both for and against what is apparent from hundreds of PCNs that Mr Mustard has seen is that in many councils heartlessness and ruthlessness are the order of the day (He does have good experiences, he recounted one with Islington Council on twitter last week but he sees far more bad than good).

The problem is that councils are not routinely monitored or inspected for the way they go about the issue and enforcement of PCNs. We need an outside body which referees the whole system and can visit councils and encourage best practice and fairness. There are 7 million PCNs issued in London every year. Councils are out of control in their quest for revenue.

Time to create OffPen.

The end.

17 February 2024

Hounslow Community Transport - breaching Human Rights

One always finds lovely cuddly statements on the websites of public facing organisations. Here is part of the HCT's claimed values:

Those values are looking like mere words on a screen today.

Look at this minibus parked outside of a space in the Montague Road, Hounslow car park.


What could be behind it, you might wonder? The answer is the car of a member of the public who parked in the dark and didn't see the little fairly well hidden sign.


What is to the side of the blue car?

Yes, you guessed it, another minibus .

The blocked in photos were taken at midnight. Mr Bluecar (not his real name) phoned up HCT and asked them for help. They declined and put the phone down. Not a very charitable act in the view of Mr Mustard. Mr Bluecar had to take the bus 6 miles to get home.

HCT don't answer the phone on a Saturday morning so Mr Bluecar didn't know when he might be able to get his car back. He tried his luck late morning and he could drive away. There was however a piece of paper which caught his attention on the windscreen. It wasn't a rude note. Yes, you guessed it:

Mr Mustard has challenged the PCN on the grounds of events beyond the control of the driver.

Mr Mustard has emailed HCT pointing out the relevant part of the Human Rights Act

Mr Mustard rather expects that management will not be as happy to break the law as one of their drivers was.

We'll see. Watch this space.

The end, for now.

Update 21 February. Hounslow Council responded quickly, they have cancelled the PCN. HCT not yet responded.